I was recently reunited with some old colleagues which was great, we were affectionately known as the ‘dream team’ as the organisation we were part of thrived under our leadership. It was a dynamic season of growth. It made me wonder what makes a Senior Leadership Team effective?
I guess no two situations are the same but here are a few random thoughts. This particular team had a great blend of experience and new emerging talent. We had a clear understanding of our roles & goals within the team yet we were also agile enough to cover for each other and capable of stepping up when that was needed. We also were willing to innovate and push forward new projects without losing our focus on the core purpose of the organisation. We were able to make positive use of authority and influence to empower and develop the team. There was also amazing team glue so that any collective decisions were supported through the implementation stage, there was genuine shared accountability and people didn’t wobble when the pressure was on.
other team I was recently part of was superb at committing to a project whether that was for one day or over the course of several weeks because of a clear understanding of the overall strategy and an effectively communicated vision. The leadership were fantastic at harnessing cooperation to achieve the shared goals and bring together different skills to make things happen. There was also a real generosity and mutual respect within the team. The team entrusted the leader to set the appropriate parameters for the project and the leader respected the team to perform without micromanaging them.
Ability matters but character is vital.
Research carried out by Harvard Business School identified 6 key conditions of an effective team. 3 essential conditions you can’t do without namely:
Real Team: Knowing who is on the team and what their roles are. Being sharp on the boundaries of their authority and responsibility. Well defined interdependent goals.
Compelling Direction: To have a purpose which is clear, challenging and consequential. The team needs to know what they are trying to achieve and that it matters.
Right People: The team members must contribute something meaningful in terms of knowledge, skills, and experience yet it is also vital that they have the right character to accept shared accountability and not get distracted by political manoeuvring.
They also identified 3 enabling conditions which are fantastic to have and which make the team perform at the highest level:
Sound Structure: Usually a small stable team of less than 10 who have clear roles and responsibilities as well as understood norms of conduct.
Supportive Context: The team needs to be provided with the resources required to deliver such as information, time, money, and as well as the human resources that will help deliver the goals.
Team Coaching: Every team benefits from internal or external support which has a coaching style. This enables pressure to be released, ideas explored, clear decisions to be made and actions implemented.
WaterAid’s International Programmes Department senior management team, who have responsibility for Asia and Africa intended to invest £112 million to support 11.5 million people globally. Recognising the challenges of such a project the team stepped back to consider how effective it was as a team in terms of operations, structures and processes. Following a high performance team coaching programme they noted significant improvements in team effectiveness. It was apparent that “relationships are deeper and stronger” and there was greater shared ownership and responsibility focused around common goals and having more open and healthy communication. “They made courageous decisions with no personal agenda; they listened to each other and to advice and were prepared to change course when they understood the consequences.” Which increased both the sense of support and dynamic energy in the team. The value of the achieving the team’s objectives seemed to rise above any personal agendas and so “they now have a collective voice which wasn’t seen before”. So with the support of effective coaching (aoec) they flourished as a team and “in terms of taking the organisation with them, they couldn’t have done better”.
I offer a supportive Team Effectiveness Programme to Senior Leadership Teams which includes; a Benchmarked Diagnostic (Smithfield Performance ASTA9 Survey), Workshops addressing key leadership development topics and Executive coaching to enable high performing Teams.